Paul’s Breakfast Show A Topping Way To Start The Day
Paul Topping’s voice is the one that tens of thousands of Isle of Wight people wake up to every weekday morning. Paul is presenter of the Breakfast Show on Isle of Wight Radio, and his is the most listened-to programme on what is the most listened-to radio station on the Island.
By the time his four-hour show begins at 6.00am, he has already been up for a couple of hours, putting the finishing touches to a combination of music, local and national news, traffic and weather reports, competitions and loads of banter.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of him taking over as Breakfast Show presenter, and for the first time in his career he agreed to be interviewed about what life is really like behind the microphone.
Off air Paul is a private person, saying: “It’s a job that is incredibly enjoyable and rewarding. But I’m sure people who do other jobs don’t shout it around, and I don’t either. I hate doing interviews. This is my first one one, and never again!
“It’s bizarre, but when I do the radio show people get to know a bit about me, like I have a wife, two children and a dog. But it’s not about me, it’s about the radio station. It’s nice if people ask me if I’m the guy off the radio, but I always feel embarrassed, and the minute you think you are more important than the radio station is the minute you lose it.”
Paul, originally from Cambridge, later lived in Bournemouth before moving here in 1997 to marry wife Emma. He always wanted to work in radio, and was not put off when his careers’ teacher told him: “That’s the worst thing you could possibly do, try to look for a proper job!”
After leaving school he took the first step towards fulfilling is ambition by working as technical operator for a company that did outside broadcast events for many top commercial radio stations. He recalls: “I also did some hospital radio broadcasts, and when I moved to the Isle of Wight I was involved with the local TV station that was, worked in marketing and promotions for a large leisure company, and did some work for radio stations in Bournemouth.”
Paul reckons he was ‘in the right place at the right time’ when a presenting job became available at the multi-award winning Isle of Wight Radio. He said: “I did some of the afternoon shows, but then left the Island to work at a station in High Wycombe. I came back six months later, in 2007, after being invited by IW Radio to become a presenter and programme controller.
“When I got the job I was terrified about getting things wrong, but in the end I managed to turn that into something I do every day,” he smiled. “A few mistakes are now part of the show! Before I did my first breakfast I remember pacing up and down, counting down the minutes to the start and feeling absolutely petrified.
“Tens of thousands are listening in, which is easy to forget. But just imagine walking into a stadium every morning in front of a crowd that big, so you need to be prepared. That’s the key.”
Paul admits that when he was first asked to present the Breakfast show he said ‘yes’ without realising the commitment he was making. It was only after the first show, and getting up at 4.00am to get into the studio on time, that it dawned on him what life was going to be like from then on.
The music playlists on his programme 10 years ago were a lot different to what they are now, but surprisingly he revealed: “I know very little about music. I’m not a presenter who knows that in 1968 a particular artist was top of the charts, or anything like that.
“We have a playlist to make sure it’s a balanced output. But I have never been loyal to any particular artist or band. A song comes along that I love, but I probably don’t even know who is performing it.”
Paul says that through his show he has spoken to ‘some amazing people who do incredible things’. He said: “Our IW Radio Child of Wight awards and Local Hero awards involve people who have done things perhaps not many others could achieve in their particular circumstances. But they are just normal people who have been nominated by others. They probably stand out the most.
“But there are well known people around, like Mark King of Level 42, a brilliant guy who really cares about the Island and wants to make a difference. He is so down to earth you sometimes forget who he is, and what he has achieved. The same applies to Dame Ellen MacArthur, who I have known for many years, as well as Rob Da Bank, another really nice guy.
“I first met Rob when we were on the same boat sailing around the Island for the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust. And it’s always a pleasure to have IW Festival curator John Giddings on the show.
“But then there are some who are complete nightmares. One of my scariest interviews was with Mad Frankie Fraser, a friend of the Kray twins. I was told I had to call him ‘Sir’. The interview was over the phone, but that was bad enough. I sensed that I had to ask all the right questions…or else!”
More recently, Paul interviewed Prince Edward, Earl Of Wessex when he visited the IW Radio studios. “That was another case of being absolutely terrified, because the visit was a big deal for the radio station. He was a real nice guy, and although there were certain restrictions on what I could ask, I think I pushed it to the limit, and he seem pleased.”
Much of the preparation for Paul’s morning show takes place the night before, so that he hits the ground running at 6.00am. But his day doesn’t finish after his four-hour programme ends. He continues in the office in his roles of Programme Director – ‘in charge of everything that comes out of the speakers ‘— and manager for the Media Sound Holdings group’s on-line activities, taking in five websites, two apps and two magazine websites.
He says: “On air, the most important thing is making sure we are playing the right music, talking about the right things, and giving out the right information. It’s quite simple when you peel it back. The biggest fundamental change over the last 10 years has been social media and online. Twitter and Facebook weren’t around a decade ago, but now we are not just radio, we are a multi-media business.”
Emily Wells, currently on maternity leave, has been a key part of Paul’s Breakfast Show for many years, and he insists it is very much a team effort.
“Whoever sits with me is probably more important than me in many respects to the programme,” he said modestly. “Now I am joined by Hayley Woodward, and that is working really well. It is humbling that tens of thousands of Island people choose us every morning, rather than listen to the dozens of other stations or TV channels that are available. Long may it continue.”
Official figures reveal IW Radio has tens of thousands more listeners on the Island than any other commercial or BBC radio station, including Radio 2, and in the past 12 months IW Radio online has seen a 68 percent increase in readers.